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Malaria prevention reduces anemia and improves educational potential in Kenyan schoolchildren
Date:7/10/2008

Providing preventive treatment for malaria, given once per term, dramatically reduces rates of malaria infection and anaemia among schoolchildren, and significantly improves their cognitive ability, according to new research published today in the Lancet.

Malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in early childhood, but its consequences during the school-age years are less widely acknowledged. By the time an African child enters school they have generally been repeatedly infected with malaria and have acquired immunity to the parasite making them less likely to die. However, malaria still accounts for up to 20% of deaths among schoolchildren, is an important cause of school absenteeism, and may hinder educational achievement. Additionally, many schoolchildren continue to harbour malaria parasites without displaying any symptoms of disease. These asymptomatic infections frequently go unrecognised and untreated, leading to anaemia and, as demonstrated for the first time in this study, impaired performance in school.

School-based health programs have been shown to work well in combating other diseases, such as worm infections, but less is known about their role in tackling malaria. Yet more children are now attending school than ever before and governments are increasingly recognising the importance of child health for educational achievement.

A multi-disciplinary team of Kenyan and British researchers investigated the impact of IPT, a new method of tackling malaria which involves the mass administration of a full course of an anti-malarial drug irrespective of whether children are infected. They assessed whether IPT could reduce the prevalence of anaemia, and improve classroom attention and educational achievement in schoolchildren. They carried out a randomised, placebo-controlled trial of IPT in 30 primary schools in a rural area of high malaria transmission in western Kenya. In total, 4916 children, aged 5-18 year
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Contact: Gemma Howe
gemma.howe@lshtm.ac.uk
020-792-72802
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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